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Envy or Jealousy


“To feel displeasure and ill-will at the superiority of another in happiness, success, and the possession of anything desirable” (OED). In today’s terms “He’s got something better than I got, therefore, I have malice toward him...I hate him.” Malice, despising, and envy go hand-in-hand: “ in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3: 3).

There was David’s bitter wife Michal, despising him on the day of his great success and happiness. She had envy in her heart, not jealousy. Regarding the ark and Israel, he was superior than her father had been. (2 Sam 6: 16).

And, there are the patriarchs, the sons of Jacob, hating Joseph because he had something they did not have: the father’s blessing and visions of his leadership over them. “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children...” (Gen. 37: 3). The family coat (many colors) was also in his possession. They weren’t jealous —Joseph wasn’t about to steal away with their wives/ girlfriends; no, they plainly hated him because of his superiority over them.: “ And they hated him yet the more...” (Gen. 37:8).

How appropriate, therefore, to read this: “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph...” (Acts 7:9). What a mistake it would be to substitute the word jealousy for the word envy!

Again, using biblical passages to define itself: “Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against workers of iniquity” (Psalm 37:1). Notice envious, not jealous, is used—hating someone because of something they have, because of their prosperity: “...fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in the way...” (37:7).


An apprehension of losing something or someone to another, of losing a loved one to a rival. Typically a third person, a rival, enters the scene and attempts to take away a lover.

2 Cor. 11:2 - Paul confesses ‘godly jealousy.’ (You won’t see godly envy.) A third lover, the false apostles, may separate this church from Christ. He further illustrates by showing the serpent as the third, or rival, lover to Adam & Eve.

“...for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God...” (Exodus 20:5). Here again, the wooing of a third agent (idolatry), and the reaction of the real Lover is exposed. Should we freely interchange envy and jealousy? What a lark! Actually to make it ‘easier to read,’ is not amusing at all; but rather, it dulls , dumbs down, and dilutes the sharp text. In conclusion, the accuracy of the KJV to ‘paint the picture,’ by using specific words for specific meanings, is second to none.

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